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Film / A Fistful of Dollars

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"When a man with a .45 meets a man with a rifle, the man with a pistol will be a dead man."
Ramón Rojo

A Fistful of Dollars is the 1964 Italian (and originally unauthorized) Spaghetti Western remake of the Japanese film Yojimbo, which itself was allegedly inspired by the novel Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett. It's the first in what's known as The Dollars Trilogy by Western fans, and was followed by For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Man With No Name (played by Clint Eastwood and called "Joe" by the coffin maker) wanders into a small poverty-stricken town on the Mexican border dominated by two feuding crime gangs, the Rojos and the Baxters, and he decides to play the clans against each other, ostensibly so that he can profit from their conflict. The opportunity arises in the form of a Mexican shipment of gold passing through the town. However, his sympathies for Marisol, a hostage of the Rojos gang, leads to a change in plans with near-fatal consequences for the Man With No Name.

The gunfight at the end is the most famous part of the film. Back to the Future Part III directly homages it, among many other Shout-Outs to this movie.

A novelization was written by Frank Chandler.

Tropes featured in A Fistful of Dollars include:

  • Adaptation Title Change: A Fistful of Dollars is based on the Japanese samurai movie Yojimbo.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Juan de Dios, the counterpart of the corrupt watchman from Yojimbo, is simply a crazy bellringer who's an in-universe annoyance at worst and appears to be friends with Piripero.
    • Downplayed with Joe. Sanjuro in Yojimbo instigated the gang conflict because it amused him. Joe did it because he's Only in It for the Money.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: In the novelization, the cavalry is more brutal in its depiction, going so far as to strike a nearby child and drawing blood in the process, and then threatening a woman and her child with death just for standing in its path. Additionally, the sergeant's threat to Joe when he approaches the stagecoach is much more explicit.
    Sergeant: Looking for something, señor?
    Joe: Just curious.
    Sergeant: I ought to kill you.
    Joe: You nervous?
    Sergeant: I am never afraid, señor.
    Joe: That's okay, then. I got it on good authority. You ain't dangerous.
    Sergeant: Get out of here, Yankee. Vamos.
    Joe: I'm going. I figure my advice wasn't so sound.
  • Affably Evil: The Baxters. Unlike the Rojo Brothers, they are much more affable and less brutal in nature.
  • Alliterative Name: Ramon Rojo.
  • Anachronism Stew: Joe, after entering a place for something to eat and drink, holds up what looks like a plastic wreath, looks at it then throws it down back on the table. Plastic was not around in the late 1800s.
  • Animal Motifs: Joe's gun has rattlesnake grips on it.
  • Animated Credits Opening: Which, by the way, calls the film "Fistful of Dollars" - no "A".
  • Anti-Hero: Joe is ruthless and unabashedly seeks money, but he has a soft spot for Silvanito and the family he encounters.
  • Arc Words: "When you shoot to kill, aim for the heart." Ramon takes his mantra a little too seriously.
  • Asshole Victim: Let's just say no one but the Baxters will miss those shit disturbers who intercept and assault Joe at the start of the film when he gets his revenge and guns down a fourth Baxter just for hanging around where he confronts them. The Rojos, for their part, are practically full of them—Chico especially won't be missed when he's crushed to death, considering he took a lot of glee in shooting at a kid and beating up his father right in front of him in the very first scene.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Essentially what defines Ramon's over-reliance to heartbound kill shots with his rifle. Sure, he could just end Joe then and there, but if it's not as stylish as a shot to the heart, why bother?.
  • Ax-Crazy: Ramon. He is extremely obsessed with a woman, is widely paranoid, and tortures and kills in cold blood. He is a dangerous psychopath and many a massacre brings an insane Slasher Smile to his face.
  • Badass Cape: Joe's poncho, which is an iconic part of his character.
  • Bandito: The Rojos are banditos-turned-bootleggers, who sell alcohol on both sides of the border, and have an ugly rivalry with the Baxters, a family of white-collar American gunrunners. While two of the brothers are absolutely stereotypical, Ramon (also Gian Maria Valonte) subverts it somewhat by being completely evil, but very bright.
  • Bang, Bang, BANG: When "Joe" is recovering from his beating, he does some pistol practice. In a modestly sized room, and every other shot seems to be a PEEYOW! ricochet.
  • Batman Gambit: Due to previous interactions with Ramon, Joe knew he wouldn't try for a headshot so he built a bullet proof vest to block his shots.
  • Berserk Button:
  • Big Bad: Ramon. Don Miguel may be the leader of the Rojos, but Ramon is on par with him in terms of strategy and participates in a lot more of the gang's atrocities in person.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: To begin with, The Man With No Name is only interested in driving the Rojos and Baxters into open warfare for the Dollars of the title. He does, however, make a point to get Marisol and her family away from the Rojos; not only does he gain nothing from this, it very nearly gets him killed.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Joe towards Ramon, though it's clearly a display of bravado rather than mercy (and the gun was empty anyway).
  • Bloodless Carnage: During the ambush of the 60-some soldiers, there are no bullets hitting either bodies, the sand, or in the background, and not one drop of blood is spotted, although the soldiers are acting like they are hit, there is not one bullet hole among them. A Gatling Gun would rip them (the soldiers, as well as their clothes) to pieces.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Ramon, when Joe finally gets to shoot him. Downplayed with Silvanito, who was merely roughed up by the Rojos and shows a visible blood trail from his mouth in the final closeup of the film and neither is nor looks none much the worse for wear.
  • Book Ends: The Stranger begins his stay in San Miguel by gunning down four of the Baxter men in a display of quick-draw shooting. The final confrontation with Ramon sees him perform the exact same feat by gunning down the four men Ramon has flanking him, leaving Ramon at the Stranger's mercy.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Happens to Esteban at the end of the climactic showdown, courtesy of Silvanito with a shotgun.
  • Bottomless Magazines: In the final showdown, Joe shoots 6 shots in total at the Rojo gang - then fires a 7th shot to free Silvinito hanging on the rope without reloading. The revolver he is using can only fire 6-shots and then needs to be reloaded.
  • Boxed Crook: A very unusual example of Executive Meddling. Joe has no clear no motive to go to the town and get involved in the feud. This made TV network executives nervous, so when the film aired on TV, a prologue was filmed: the Man With No Name is released from prison to restore order to the town. This scene was shot without the permission of Sergio Leone, and without Eastwood's participation. Harry Dean Stanton plays the Prison Governor.
  • Bridal Carry: Joe does this to Marisol after he accidentally knocks her out.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Joe fashions one out of scrap metal before the film's climax, giving him a chance against Ramon and his rifle.
  • The Cartel: The Rojos. They are basically the prototype of a Mexican cartel.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Ramon's ability to make perfect heartshots to a suit of armour. His rifle's bullets don't penetrate it and also cannot penetrate Joe's boiler plate.
  • The Chessmaster: Joe. He instigates conflict between the gangs while taking pay from both sides.
  • Child Hater: Joe speculates the cavalry captain to be one in the novelization after witnessing him roughing up a child and threatening another with death.
    Joe: I wonder if the captain is married and treats his own children like that?
  • Chromosome Casting: Marisol and Consuela are the only female characters in the film.
  • Cigar-Fuse Lighting: Ramon uses a cigar to light the fuse on the dynamite that blows up the wall around the Baxter house.
  • Coffin Contraband: Joe uses this tactic to escape from San Miguel without the Rojos noticing—specifically, he is the contraband. He stops only to watch the Rojos utterly annihilate the Baxters in their search for him, only telling Piripero to carry on after the last Baxter is dead.
  • Contract on the Hitman: Joe leaves the Rojos because he overhears them plotting to kill him when the job is finished, to avoid paying him.
  • Cool Guns:
    • Joe uses a Single Action Army 5 1/2" Artillery with a color case hardened frame.
    • Ramon uses a Winchester 1892 rifle throughout the film, although it tends to switch to a Winchester 1894 rifle and a '92 Saddle Ring Carbine in some scenes.
  • Covers Always Lie: Movie posters show The Man With No Name holding a Walker Colt. In the movie he uses a Colt Single Action Army.
  • Crippling the Competition: The bad guys stomp on Joe's hands while beating him. Except they stomped on the wrong hand.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right
    Joe: Crazy bell ringer was right. There's money to be made in a place like this.
  • Damsel in Distress: Marisol has to be rescued by Joe and re-united with her husband Julio and son Jesus.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to Yojimbo. There's no comic relief beyond any snarking, there's more bloodshed, and the villains are more openly psychotic.
  • Depending on the Writer: The only man who died a natural death in San Miguel died of pneumonia in the film and of lead poisoning in the novelization. How he contracted pneumonia in the film is never expanded upon, but in the novelization, Silvanito explains rather crossly that he had cut himself on a rusted tin.
  • Determinator: After finding out Joe was responsible for getting Marisol and her family out of the town, Ramon has Joe beaten to a bloody pulp. Yet he was still able to not only make it out of the room he was locked into alive, but also was able to take a few more henchmen down.
  • Digital Destruction: It's gotten to the point where the best version is a hodgepodge between the Italian Ripley's Blu-ray (complete image plus the original colors and the original Italian mono audio track, but a lossy original English mono audio track) and the American Kino Lorber Blu-ray (slightly cropped with excessive yellows, but more image than the MGM Blu-ray, and features the original English opening and closing titles plus a lossless original English mono audio track). While the Italian and German releases use a color scheme that hews closer to what was originally seen in theatres, they differ in image quality and the quality of the included original English mono track, with the German Blu-ray featuring a slightly inferior color scheme leaning a bit too closely towards red and the Italian Blu-ray having its original English mono track in a lossy format. The MGM Blu-ray is the worst of the lot, featuring a heavily-cropped image throughout, somewhat muddied colors, and an English mono track which is simply a fold-down from the 5.1 remix. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray, as mentioned before, leans heavily on the yellow side, but shows more image than the MGM Blu-ray (if slightly less than the Italian and German Blu-rays), and what it lacks in image quality, it more than makes up for by including the original English mono track in a lossless format, taken from an original 35mm/16mm print with an optical soundtrack.
  • Dirty Coward: Paco in the novelization sees his death coming as soon as Joe kills his accomplice Martin at the mine and tries to talk his way out of it. Joe will have none of it.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Ramon is a master at it:
    • The most visible example is making Marisol his whore just because he thinks her husband, Julián, owes him on account of a past gambling incident. As a matter of fact, he is determined to make life as hellishly difficult for Julián and his family as possible, with as much manpower as possible, over that gambling dispute. Talk about a fistful for an eye...
    • More generally, woe betide anyone who befriends one of his enemies, as Silvanito found out the hard way ("And that's for being his friend!").
  • The Dragon: Esteban. He's the second most bloodthirsty of the Rojo brothers, and he plays an active role in Joe's torture (that role being reduced in the original theatrical cuts released in the US and the UK), but he's basically subordinate to both Ramon and Don Miguel.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Ramon is this to his elder brother Miguel. Miguel is the Don of the family, but Ramon is a much more dangerous fighter, and is the true power of the family.
  • The Dreaded: Early in the film, when Joe has met Don Miguel and Esteban, he comments to Silvanito that he has yet to meet Ramon. Silvanito tells him to hope he never does.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: The Rojos gang disguise themselves as US soldiers to stage an ambush on the Mexican troops.
  • The Drifter: The classic Western example, with the Man With No Name simply wandering into the town at the beginning.
  • Dub Name Change: In the original Italian, Don Miguel was known as Don Benito.
  • Enemy Civil War: The Man With No Name deliberately starts this between The Baxters and The Rojos.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Don Miguel looks shocked when Esteban shoots Consuela. Heck, even Ramon is a little shocked.
  • Evil Genius: Ramon. He's the only one of the villains who has a clue about Joe, and seems to be the Rojos' planner as well.
  • Evil Laugh: Many of the Rojos let out a few when they massacre the Baxters—even Don Miguel, the normally level-headed leader of the Rojos, who doesn't fire a single shot through it all. Those who don't have a Slasher Smile at the very least.
  • Evil Matriarch: Mrs. Baxter is the real brains in her family.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The Rojos vs. The Baxter, though the Baxters are perhaps more corrupt than evil.
  • Expy: The entire cast of the film are based on the characters from Yojimbo, to the point where it resulted in a lawsuit. Several Yojimbo characters have no clear counterpart in A Fistful of Dollars: Inokichi, Tazaemon the silk merchant, Tokuemon the sake brewer, and Hachi and Kuma, the two thugs sent to kill the country inspector.
  • Fake Shemp: The 1977 prologue for TV featuring Harry Dean Stanton has a heavily swathed body double for Clint Eastwood shot largely from behind. Two tight close-ups of Eastwood's face with his trademark squint have plainly been taken from other footage, as he's squinting in bright sunlight and Stanton is talking to Eastwood indoors.
  • False Flag Operation: The Rojos pretend to be American soldiers to steal the gold shipment from the Mexican Army. They've already killed the Americans and position the bodies to make it look like they killed each other.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Ramon acts friendly most of the time, but is rotten to the core. You see his real personality during the massacre of the Baxters, where he is laughing and firing almost indiscriminately, overjoyed to be able to kill and kill (the rest of the men are acting the same way, but Ramon has largely been so controlled up until this point that it's a surprise to see the monster inside showing itself so openly).
  • The Family That Slays Together: The Rojo brothers and the Baxters are both family gangs.
  • Feuding Families: The Baxters and the Rojos, though it's The Man With No Name's manipulations that brings the feud to a boil.
  • A Fistful of Rehashes: The Trope Namer, and itself a Western rehash of Yojimbo, as mentioned below.
  • Foreign Remake: Again, of Yojimbo. The writers didn't credit Kurosawa at first, and as a result he had to sue them. He wound up being awarded the East Asian distribution rights for Fistful — which wound up making him more money than most of his own movies.
  • Foreshadowing: While cursing the Rojos for murdering her family, Consuelo yells at Ramón "May you and your brothers die spitting blood!". Ramón bleeds from the mouth as he dies.
  • For the Evulz: This is the only reason in Ramon. He is just an inhuman bastard who enjoys killing and robbing.
  • Gang of Hats: The Mexican, hard-partying Rojos and the European, dignified Baxters.
  • Gatling Good: The Rojos steal some gold from the Mexican army, largely thanks to being able to mow down about 100 soldiers with a Gatling Gun (which is actually a mock-up of a Mitrallieuse volley gun crammed on top of a normal machine gun, probably a Maxim).
  • Giant Mook: Chico is the first of the Rojo thugs we see, and also one of the most prominent to the point of being billed in the opening credits. He's got a great girth, and he generally isn't very friendly even towards his fellow thugs, except for Vincente, who complains about having to watch Joe until he's ready to open his mouth about Marisol, ultimately getting barreled to death along with him.
  • Giggling Villain: Esteban whenever someone is being tortured.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: A downplayed example. In the climax, the camera prominently shows the ominous, expensive black leather boots of the wicked Esteban Rojo (who also tends to flashy dress) — and then immediately cuts to a zoom-in on the tan-colored, simple but stylish, roughout boots of the protagonist.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: During the torture scene, Ramón is the bad cop who oversees the torture and interrogation of Joe, while Don Miguel is the good cop who offers to release Joe if he'd just tell them where Marisol went.
  • Good Guns, Bad Guns: "The Man With No Name" (good) carries a Colt Single Action Army revolver (particularly, the "Artillery" model with a shorter barrel which is better for Quick Drawing), one of the most classic "good" guns of the Old West. Ramón Rojo, the primary antagonist, prefers his rifle, a Winchester 1892. It's more accurate at a distance, holds more rounds, and Ramón at one point utters the now-famous page quote to "The Man". In the climax, knowing Ramón's calling card is to always aim for the heart, "The Man" crafts a chest protector out of an old boiler plate, wears it under his trademark poncho, and takes the hits until Ramón's rifle is out of ammo. After taking out Ramón's henchmen, "The Man" moves into close range and gives Ramón a final chance to test his quote. "The Man" wins easily.
  • Guile Hero: The Man depends as much on his cunning as his phenomenal skill as a pistolero, spending most of the first half of the movie playing both gangs against each other expertly.
  • Guilt by Association Gag: An example that isn't Played for Laughs. "I saw the whole thing; you killed all four of them." Uh, Sheriff Baxter, wasn't the grand total number of Baxters mocking Joe's mule three? Lampshaded by Joe himself as he leaves the area:
    Joe: My mistake. Four coffins.
  • The Gunslinger: If you have to ask, you've never seen the film (or any other Clint Eastwood western).
  • Hollywood Healing: Not as bad as Yojimbo, as Clint Eastwood's character does take some time to recover from his injuries. Contrast with another Spaghetti Western adaptation of the same story, Django, however, where the hero ends the movie triumphant but physically shattered.
  • Hong Kong Dub: Not especially noticeable, especially when Joe's talking (Clint Eastwood was supposedly the only cast member to be fluent in English), but a glaring example can be seen in the US theatrical cut after Joe is tortured. Chico is talking with Vincente about how fun it'll be to watch Joe even though there's a shot of both their dead bodies amidst the remains of a giant barrel Joe had rolled at them, and the sound of the barrel rolling and Chico screaming right before being smashed can be heard after the fact, as Joe's crawling out of the storeroom (for some reason, the US theatrical cut was done slightly differently than the UK theatrical cut but used the same audio as the UK theatrical cut). Played straight in the scenes with the little boy crying, where the dubbing is incredibly obvious.
  • Hurting Hero: Joe is brutally beaten by the Rojos.
  • I Want Them Alive!: When Joe escapes the Rojos, Ramon orders a search, but wants him alive. Justified, as he wants to know where Marisol is.
  • I Warned You: When suggesting the "brilliant" idea of shooting Joe in the back for that first hundred, Esteban is told outright, "Just shoot him in the back, and it's all settled, eh? Well, what if your gun twitches just a little?" Joe wasn't the one to kill him at the end, but Esteban tries for that back shot, his shotgun twitches in the windowsill just a little, and he gets blown away for his troubles, as foretold.
  • Idiot Ball: Ramon and his men freak out over Joe's apparent inability to die when Ramon shoots him repeatedly with his rifle, yet it never occurs to Ramon to try shooting Joe in the head, nor does it occur to him or his men to just open fire indiscriminately when Joe reveals he was wearing a crude bullet proof vest the whole time.
    • Sort of a justified trope as in an early scene, Joe calls out Ramon for not doing a head shot during a practice shoot. Ramon believes that to really kill a man you must aim for the heart. Joe counted on it and called him on it during the aforementioned bulletproof vest scene. There's also the fact that at the time, a truly bulletproof vest was almost unheard of.
    • Also justified in that, even for an expert marksman with high-end modern sniper gear, headshots are actually really, really hard to pull off.
  • Improvised Armour: The metal chest piece is ripped from a stove.
  • Invulnerable Horses: Subverted. During the ambush at the river, Ramon shoots many soldiers, but not a single horse is injured. Then after the gun is silenced, there are several dead horses lying in plain view.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • While the nameless Stranger is comparing weapons with Ramon, Ramon praises his rifle, to which the Stranger replies that he'd prefer his .45. Ramon replies, "When a man with a .45 meets a man with a rifle, the man with a pistol will be a dead man. That's an old Mexican Proverb... and it's true." Later on during the final showdown, the Stranger repeats those words to Ramon, and says "Let's see if that's true." Of course, the words don't hold up, and Ramon is killed.
    • Twice through the movie, Joe is described as being "in the middle" between the Rojos and Baxters, which he considers ripe for opportunity. At the end, while both gangs are wiped out, Joe ruefully notes that now he's "in the middle" between the approaching Mexican and US government forces. This time, however, he considers it too dangerous and hightails it out of town before they arrive.
  • Irony: At the start of the film, Joe is giving Piripero most of his business. Unfortunately for Piripero, Joe's cleared out most of his customers by the end of the film. Though, the bodies pile up at a fast enough rate at one point that they just don't bother with coffins anyway.
  • Jerkass:
    • Ramon and Esteban Rojo, for the Rojos.
    • On the Baxters' side, three of their thugs casually make fun of Joe and fire at his mule's feet almost as soon as he rides into town.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Joe, in his treatment of everyone who's not a Rojo or Baxter.
  • Keep It Foreign: In pre-1988 prints of the English dub, Piripero audibly measuring the fresh Rojo corpses from the Italian version is left in.
  • Kick the Dog: Ramon, when he massacred a Mexican army unit in his first appearance and when he brutally tortures Silvanito.
  • "Kick Me" Prank: At the start of the movie when Joe rides into town he passes a man riding out with an "Adios amigos" sign on his back.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Paco in the novelization.
    Paco: Señor, I warn you to leave. Martin made me do this thing. I did not want it. Now I tell you that Ramon knows of this place. He is coming with many men. If you go now, head for the border, I will tell Ramon that—
    [Joe pumps two bullets into Paco without a second thought]
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Rather than capitalize on his victory in the gang war between the Baxters and the Rojos, Joe decides enough's enough when faced with the prospect of being caught up in a possible conflict involving the Mexican government over their stolen gold and skips town, but not before paying what he owes Silvanito.
  • Leitmotif: Joe is accompanied by a swift descending scale on a recorder whenever he does something impressive/we see his face/he happens to blink.
  • Mr. Smith: The protagonist is actually called 'Joe' in the script, but as only Piripero the undertaker gives him that name, as in "average Joe", Clint Eastwood instead became The Man With No Name.
  • Mugged for Disguise: A US Cavalry company are murdered and their uniforms stolen to allow Ramon and his men to stage an ambush on the Mexican troops.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Ramon sets up two mass murders within several days rather than try more subtle methods or be content to accept an enemy's surrender.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: For much of the movie, the Man With No Name is only out to make some quick cash, and while he's doing that he's all but invincible in fights and plays all the other characters for suckers. It's only when he tries to do something nice by helping Marisol and her family escape that the bad guys get wise to him...
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Joe receives one from Chico, Rubio, and Esteban after Marisol escapes.
  • No Name Given: The coffin maker refers to him as Joe. Might as well.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Joe mentions that using corpses as decoys has helped him out of a situation more than once, and that he once knew someone like Marisol and there was no one to help.
    • It is not known which gang "Adios Amigo" (the dead man Joe encounters upon first entering San Miguel) fell foul of, let alone what "Adios Amigo" was doing in San Miguel in the first place.
  • Not Quite Dead: Paquito survives the initial assault on the small house only for Marisol to warn Joe, resulting in the head of the small house guard meeting his end with a sword to the chest.
  • Not So Above It All: Don Miguel, who is typically the Only Sane Man of the Rojos, is seen laughing while they massacre the Baxters, though he doesn't kill any of them.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: There's an obvious horse riding double for Clint Eastwood during the entire sequence where he rides back to town while trying to avoid the Rojo's.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Ramon's reaction every time Joe gets up from his heart shots.
    • Joe's expression after he accidentally knocks Marisol out, mistaking her for a Rojo.
    • Ramon's henchmen is a Smug Snake when he's about to kill Marisol's husband, and he maintains that look when getting ready to kill Silvanito for protecting him. However, he is clearly on the verge of shitting his pants when Joe steps up behind Silvanito and backs him up. Joe gives him a Death Glare, and the man very slowly moves his hand well away from his gun.
  • One Bullet Left: Joe has one bullet left in his six-shooter, while Ramon has one bullet in a rifle. Joe might have been lucky, but considering how badass he is, he was probably just that good. The point was that both of them have one bullet, but they have to load their weapons of choice first. And Joe's six shooter is faster to load than Ramon's rifle, even when Joe's hand is not fully healed.
  • Only in It for the Money: Joe. Though, he does offer a good amount of his earnings to the family he rescues from the hands of the Rojos, making it clear that, while money may be a major motivating factor for him, it's not the only one.
    Joe: That crazy bellringer was right. There's money to be made in a place like this.
  • Only Sane Man: Silvanito, the bartender, who at first reluctantly befriends Joe.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When feigning an intention to make peace with the Baxters, the Rojos, especially Ramón, do a little too well. Ramón's sudden friendliness and politeness towards John Baxter and his wife sets off alarm bells in Mrs. Baxter's head, and sure enough, after they've returned home from the dinner Joe breaks into their mansion to let them know exactly why the Rojos wanted to make peace all of a sudden. As it so happens, a cavalry rode through town, and Ramón had the whole cavalry massacred, except for two soldiers who somehow managed to flee to the town cemetery. Fearing an investigation, Ramón then decided to keep things peaceful between the families just long enough for the investigation to officially clear the Rojos of any involvement in the massacre.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: Pops up from time to time during the nighttime scenes, being most visible when the Baxters prepare for dinner with the Rojos, and later near the end when the Rojos massacre the Baxters.
  • Pet the Dog: The protagonist saves a family caught in between the troubles of the two Gang of Hats, making him seem less amoral. The family is so damn thankful, Joe practically has to shoo them in order for them to leave. And with good reason: dire consequences would befall both if they don't.
  • Playing Drunk: Joe pretends to be so blind drunk at the Rojos' party that he has to be carried to bed. Of course, it's a ruse so he can sneak out and free Marisol.
  • Plot Hole: During the shootout in the cemetery, Ramón shoots the (dead) soldiers on the tombstone. As the (dead) soldiers don't move or react at any time during the shoot out, wouldn't that indicate that the soldiers weren't alive? Yet no-one in the shootout seems to notice.
  • Pocket Protector: The Man with No Name hides a metal plate under his poncho before the final showdown. In that fight, he deliberately goads Ramon to aim at his chest, which is the only part of his body that is armored.
  • Power Trio: The Rojo Bros.
    • Ego: Ramon, who is Ax-Crazy but calculating.
    • Superego: Don Miguel, who is the most reasonable of the three.
    • Id: Esteban, the most impulsive of the three brothers.
  • Precision F-Strike: Joe has one in the Italian version when the Army comes to town.
    Joe: Who knows what the hell's in the stagecoach.
  • Prematurely Marked Grave: The local undertaker looks the protagonist over before leaving. Another character comments that the one hard look is all that the coffinmaker needs, because there has been so much business.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: After verifying that John Baxter wasn't kidding when he surrendered, Ramon tells him to take up his surrender terms with his wife and says, "Maybe she won't be too happy," before shooting him.
  • Prisoner Exchange: Marisol is exchanged for one of the Baxters.
  • Railing Kill:
    • Ramon kills a Baxter this way.
    • Esteban dies this way when Silvanito shoots him in the bar balcony.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: Yojimbo WITH COWBOYS! Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Ennio Morricone sampled the music from his cover of Woody Guthrie's song, "Pastures of Plenty", performed by Peter Tevis, for the soundtrack.
  • Revenge Before Reason: At the end of the movie, Joe has killed all of Ramon's associates, tricked him into using up all the bullets in his rifle, and shot the rifle out of his hands for good measure. Instead of just shooting the defenseless Ramon, however, he empties his own gun and throws it on the ground, just so he and Ramon can have a who-can-pick-up-their-gun-reload-it-and-shoot-the-other-guy-first contest just to further humiliate him.
  • Revolver Cylinder Spin: During the climatic my-pistol-against-your-rifle showdown between The Man With No Name and Ramon, The Man With No Name gives the cylinder on his revolver a spin after loading it and getting the drop on Ramon. Of course, since he only loaded a single bullet, it was pure luck that the chamber with the bullet came to rest under the hammer...
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Ramon attempts to defy this in the page quote. It doesn't go well. The movie really plays with the trope, though. Joe doesn't win the shootout because his revolver is inherently better than Ramon's rifle. He wins because he utilizes his weapon's strengths to exploit the weaknesses of Ramon's (the revolver is slightly quicker and easier to reload and aim, and the close range nullifies the rifle's greater long-distance accuracy).
  • Sadist: Ramon and Esteban Rojo, both visibly delighted during moments of carnage.
  • Sawn-Off Shotgun: Silvanito wields one. He points it at the Rojo thugs when they gather outside his bar and uses it to kill Esteban (who appears to be using the same gun to fire at Joe).
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Clint Eastwood's going to shoot the guy above you. Or maybe he's just preparing to shoot you.
  • Secondary Adaptation: This 1964 live-action film is a remake of the 1961 film Yojimbo, itself based on the 1929 novel Red Harvest. Additionally, this film was novelized in 1972 by Frank Chandler.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Combined with Overly Narrow Superlative. The poster proclaims "A Fistful of Dollars is the first motion picture of its kind. It won't be the last!" Especially ironic since it was a remake of Yojimbo.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In a musical sense. Quite a few of the musical cues (that don't use mariachi trumpets) sound straight out of a samurai movie—seemingly a nod to the film's inspiration.
    • According to the commentary on the DVD, the animated opening sequence (which would later become a common feature of Spaghetti Westerns) was this to James Bond.
  • Shoot the Rope: Joe does this for Silvanito, who was strung up by his hands.
  • Siblings in Crime: The Rojo brothers, who run a powerful gang.
  • The Slow Walk: Eastwood's final showdown with the Rojos begins with him walking dramatically towards them after grabbing their attention with some dynamite.
  • Smash Cut: From Ramon's Evil Laugh after explaining to Esteban why he wants peace with the Baxters all of a sudden to Silvanito laughing at the seeming failure of Joe's gambit.
  • Spaghetti Western: One of the most famous examples, as well as a Trope Codifier for the detached cynicism that would make Spaghetti Westerns so distinct from their American counterparts, which up to this point had typically taken a more reverent and overtly heroic tone.
  • Squashed Flat: Chico and Vincente killed when Joe rolls a massive barrel on top of them. They're not quite flat, but they're quite dead.
  • The "The" Title Confusion: As noted above, in the opening credits the title is simply Fistful of Dollars.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Joe has one immediately after accidentally punching out Marisol, making it clear that, for all his faults, hitting women is not something he's comfortable with.
  • Throw a Barrel at It: Joe takes out Chico and another Rojo by rolling a large barrel at them.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: After the shoot-out in the little house, Joe is wrecking the place with a machete. Marisol sees a not-quite-dead bad guy reaching for a gun and shouts a warning. Joe spins around and hurls the machete at him, neatly impaling him.
  • Token Good Teammate: Don Miguel seems more like Reasonable Authority Figure than the Ax-Crazy Ramon and Giggling Villain Esteban. Doesn't stop Joe from killing him, too.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: Despite Ramon's brutal attempts to extract information from both Joe and Silvanito, he ends up with exactly zero in the way of useful information.
  • Understatement: In the novelization, after the massacre at the Rio Bravo:
    Silvanito: That Ramon, he is a mean one.
    Joe: He ain't no Sunday school teacher, that's for sure.
  • Undertaker: One of the only characters who earns an honest living is the the undertaker. And he's pretty cheery too, until Clint's character wipes out the remaining gang members.
    Joe: Get three coffins ready.
    [later, after gunning down four men]
    Joe: My mistake. Four coffins...
  • Unorthodox Reload: Ramón Rojo casually does the half-cycle spin at the beginning of the final showdown.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Ramón starts the final duel with a confident smile, stating "The Americano is dead." As his shots fail, over and over, to kill Joe, his confidence crumbles, until he's visibly panicked and firing again and again until he runs out of bullets.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The only concrete information about San Miguel's location is that it's somewhere in the northeastern part of Mexico.
  • Women Are Wiser: In the novelization, Consuela Baxter claims to be the smartest member of the Baxter family, and as in the film she backs it up at several points.
  • Would Hit a Girl:
    • Completely accidental, but you get the feeling Joe was more annoyed at hitting a bystander than punching out a lady.
    • Esteban guns down Mrs. Baxter without a second thought.
  • Would Hurt a Child: To demonstrate how horrible Ramon is, he has the child of the kidnapped mother (a 6 years old kid) threatened with death if she is not given over.